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“woman is the nigger of the world” is a song written and recorded by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1972. The shocking title and bitter lyrics didn’t qualify the song to rank higher than a humble #57 on the billboard hot 100 ranking. The song was withdrawn from the British charts and the song’s title was a cause for apology by those who wanted to play the song on radio stations. John -as always- was proud of the song and it’s shocking “politically incorrect” title and was proud of Ono’s participation in the song’s lyrics and the coining of the title. Yet, no matter how much I agree or disagree with the song’s lyrics or title, it’s “his Lennonness” who co-wrote this song, the same man who wrote “Imagine” and “working class hero”, I remain bedazzled and perplexed at his boldness and earnestness and I can’t help but admire the man and his daring piece of work. I can’t disagree with John: I’m only human you know!

In Egypt, women are not happier than women in other areas of the world, in fact, Egyptian women suffer discrimination, prejudices, judgments, harassment and violence, probably like many other parts of the world yet, what makes the Egyptian situation bizarrely flamboyant is the fact that women throughout Egyptian history were treated as equal to men, some were even goddesses and queens, history books are loaded with female figures who ruled, governed and (literally) got worshiped by Egyptians. We hear of Isis, Nefertiti, Hatshepsut, Virgin Mary, Aisha, Khadija, Fatima Al-Zahra’a, Shagaret Al-dur, Safeyya Zaghloul …  

Yet, something went wrong on the way to the twenty first century and suddenly we stand helpless in a rare moment of hopeless self realization, blogging about sexual harassment and trying to figure out the causes and the cures for such a shameful social disease.

In my humble opinion, sexual harassment in Egypt is a byproduct of the social perception regarding “decency”! As a rule, if a specific human act is not fiercely condemned by the society at large and is therefore not harshly punishable by law, it (the act) is considered acceptable and at some point logical. In Egypt, the first set of questions that are being asked once a sexual harassment account is told are: what was she wearing? where did this take place? why would a “decent” woman walk by herself there? when did this happen? why would a “decent” woman walk alone that late? the general consensus of the society is willing to acknowledge and admit a sexual harassment case only if: the woman was “decently” dressed, was walking in a fairly inhabited area and before 9:00 pm! otherwise, it’s her fault. 

I’m willing to accept that every event is identified by two universal measures: time and space. But, adding “decency” to an event’s universal characteristics, defies all the rules of nature from quantum physics to the theory of relativity not to mention the Newtonian laws of motion! Decency is a very subjective, hard to measure, hard to define human quality and it’s due to this “decency” factor that many policemen engage in sexual harassment and its also due to this decency factor that the law enforcers fail to justly and fairly deal with various cases of harassment.

Yet “decent” women get sexually harassed all the time. Some would argue that the vast majority of sexual harassment victims are “decent” women. Kids, teenagers and even elderly women are victims of sexual harassment. It’s sick to imagine or even discuss: but, how indecent can a 9 year old girl be? how sexy, hot or arousing can a 7 year old girl with golden ringlets on a bus or in a park be? What’s so indecent about a girl laughing loudly, or a girl wearing tight clothes or even a girl walking by herself on a deserted road drunk at 3:00 am? Where is the Universal   declaration of human rights? What happened to: We are here to protect and serve? Where did all the teachings of Jesus and Muhammad go? What about Batman, Spiderman or Zorro? Why do the teachings of our idols fail to exist when we need them the most!?

It’s our consensus of “decency” that needs to change simply because this consensus is: indecent!

Applying the law, harshening the punishment and dedicating a special police force to track down and incarcerate harassers may help control the saddening phenomena but my opinion is that sexual harassment will not cease to exist unless we change our definition and accordingly our perception regarding what’s decent and what’s not.

You want a proof to my debate, think of SCAF, think of the military police then think of the excuses they gave for performing the most bizarre act in the history of harassment: Date: March 10, 2011. Time: Sometime before noon. Place: A makeshift detention facility at the Egyptian museum in Tahrir square. Act: Virginity tests being performed on 18 women. “The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine,” an anonymous general told a CNN reporter.

The general’s possibly meant: “The girls who were detained were not as decent as your daughter or mine”

Image by Rong Jiaojiao